News alert from the New York Times and the Atlantic: Technology is ruining dating.
A piece in this month’s Atlantic entitled “A Million First Dates” suggests “ online romance is threatening monogamy,” because people allegedly prefer continually perusing online dating sites’ “horrible den of humanity” to settling down and getting married. Not to be outdone, the New York Times followed up this weekend with a piece on the “ End of Courtship,” which explores the well-trodden hypothesis that Millenials only know how to “hang out,” not date. As is the usual format for these pieces, a series of women air their dating grievances while a token man or two celebrates the “casual” state of things. The twist in this piece is that it places the blame on technology. Basically, your smartphone and Facebook account are going to make you single forever. It sounds dire! These pieces would have you believe we’re worse at mating and dating than the pandas.
So how is technology putting a bamboo stake in the heart of romance according to these august publications?
- Too much texting, not enough dates.“Dating culture has evolved to a cycle of text messages, each one requiring the code-breaking skills of a cold war spy to interpret,” a 30-year-old woman tells the New York Times after she put on her favorite pair of skinny jeans for a date that never happened.According to the Times, rather than doing a dinner and a movie, most daters now instead exchange “phone texts, Facebook posts, instant messages.” Emoticon flirting is the new first date.
- Lowered barriers to entry.According to the Times: “Traditional courtship — picking up the telephone and asking someone on a date — required courage, strategic planning and a considerable investment of ego (by telephone, rejection stings). Not so with texting, e-mail, Twitter… it removes much of the need for charm; it’s more like dropping a line in the water and hoping for a nibble.” In other words, technology has transformed all single folk into lazy fishermen with 10 lines in the water instead of Captain Ahab types focused on spearing just one elusive soul mate.
- Unromantic tech speak.Men don’t put effort into “composing a coherent message to ask a woman out” complains one 34-year-old blogger. “A typical, annoying query is the last-minute: ‘Is anything fun going on tonight?’,” according to the Times. “More annoying still are the men who simply ping, ‘Hey’ or ‘ ’sup.’” I hope those at least come with a “;).”
- It’s too easy to meet someone new. That’s what Dan Slaterclaimsin the Atlantic. Single people abound on dating sites meaning someone new/different/better/hotter/carrying-less-baggage is just one wink/poke/OKCupid message away.
- Facebook has ruined the first date.We’ve Facebook-stalked ourselves out of small talk. “Online research makes the first date feel unnecessary, because it creates a false sense of intimacy,” says the author of the ‘Hookup Handbook” to the Times. Sadly, asking someone to name their favorite TV shows is no longer stimulating conversation for the first date. What a shame.
Crazily enough, despite technology “ruining” dating, people still seem to meet people and fall in love. Alexis Madrigal of the Atlantic challenged the premise of Slater’s piece — that sites like OkCupid have shot an arrow through the heart of monogamy — by pointing out that “the heaviest users of technology–educated, wealthier people–have been using online dating and networking sites to ﬁnd each other for years. And yet, divorcerates among this exact group have been declining for 30 years.”
Technology has certainly changed the way we communicate with significant others (and potential significant others) and added new complications to the process. Before 2005, daters didn’t have to think about whether to untag themselves from photos with their exes or when it was the right time to Facebook friend a romantic interest. And the proliferation in ways to communicate has given men and women much more material to obsess over during the dating process, but it seems premature to slap together some anecdotes and suggest technology has brought about “the end of courtship.”
There are of course other factors; the NYT article does nod its head at the state of the economy over the past five years and budget-cutting around dating. But that should only mean the first date involves cheap tacos rather than several rounds of $14 craft cocktails. More importantly, there’s the matter of expectations, and how you communicate and enforce those expectations. A voice of reason at the end of the New York Times article makes this point:
Cheryl Yeoh, a tech entrepreneur in San Francisco, said that she has been on many formal dates of late — plays, fancy restaurants. One suitor even presented her with red roses. For her, the old traditions are alive simply because she refuses to put up with anything less. She generally refuses to go on any date that is not set up a week in advance, involving a degree of forethought.
If you want to date someone who takes you on real dates, then don’t respond to 10 p.m. “‘sup” texts.